How can Bangladeshi apparel manufacturers grow globally?

August 25, 2021

In this episode of Serai Spotlight, we talked with Dewan Saiful Alam Masud, the President of The Bangladesh Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce HK (BMCCHK), about the opportunities and challenges for Bangladeshi manufacturers. Why is building a digital presence important for manufacturers to connect with partners globally? How can BMCCHK facilitate trade for Bangladeshi businesses? An edited transcript follows.

D.S.A. Masud: As a chamber, we arrange tools to explore business opportunities in other countries. We organised a business tour in Vietnam before the pandemic. Additionally, we organised several workshops and networking meetings. Besides that, also we promote and help people to invest in Bangladesh and Hong Kong, 

What are some initiatives you hope to accomplish in the coming years for the textile and garment sector?

D.S.A. Masud: We are trying to promote investment in Bangladesh. You know, we act as a bridging point for those planning to invest in Bangladesh. Due to the trade war between the US and China, many people are looking to relocate their factories. So we look out for these people and try to encourage them to relocate and invest in Bangladesh. Being in Hong Kong, one of the freest business hubs, allows us to continue connecting Bangladesh to the many suppliers in this region. 

What is the biggest challenge for manufacturers in the industry today? And how can they overcome the challenge?

D.S.A. Masud: Sustainability is a challenge for manufacturers. To meet sustainability goals in respect to producing sustainable products, manufacturing should be focused on minimising negative environmental impacts. Besides, speed and agility to market is also a challenge in today's business that manufacturers should work on to meet the market pace. In addition, innovation and product diversification and factory upgradation are also part of the challenges to sustain the industry long term. Infrastructure remains one of the biggest issues facing the RMG sector. For the apparel industry to prosper in the future, Bangladesh will need more preferential trade agreements with different countries. China allowed so many items duty-free access for Bangladesh. Finally, the government should provide support to the exporters to explore different areas where they can utilise the policy changes. There is room to increase exports to non-traditional markets, particularly as traditional markets, sometimes, show a lower growth in apparel retail sales. 

To meet sustainability goals in respect to producing sustainable products, manufacturing should be focused on minimising negative environmental impacts.

What are the benefits for companies to create a strong digital presence to get access to partners globally?

D.S.A. Masud: (With) a strong digital presence, companies can enhance their reach and connect globally to grow businesses. It builds company credibility and increases reach to the international market to gain business. And, you know, Serai is also a digital platform. I think these are the things if used properly can help a lot, you know, in accessing partners globally.

What are you most optimistic about the future of the textile apparel industry?

D.S.A. Masud: I'm quite optimistic. Apparel is an essential item that people need. So, demand for apparel will always be there. Bangladesh shall remain a competitive and suitable place for sourcing garments for at least another one or two decades. We are actually a very mature country. I mean, Bangladesh is a mature country for upwards we have been in this industry almost for more than 40 years. And the cost is competitive. We have a skilled workforce, young educated mid level executives. So, if there’s more investment, and if the relocation from China and other countries are coming to Bangladesh, I'm very optimistic about the future.

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